The public can now get complete and comprehensive inexpensive diagnostic testing services
THE CLINICAL and medical diagnostic field is an ever-expanding field with an array of clinical laboratory tests for diagnosing and monitoring our state of health.
And routine tests are encouraged to keep track of the overall well-being and make informed decisions on one’s health.
It is noteworthy that laboratory tests and the price charged for the tests are costly. It seems to be a deterrent for middle and low-income groups.
“However, SpyGene Laboratories Sdn Bhd (SpyGene) aims to provide complete and comprehensive diagnostic testing services for the public at affordable prices,” said Chief Executive Officer Abdul Rahman Wahiduddin.
Skilled and certified staff
SpyGene is a new clinical and molecular laboratory company incorporated in June 2021 under Revongen Corporation Sdn Bhd.
Located at Enterprise 1, Technology Park Malaysia, SpyGene comprises of several divisions namely Hematology, Clinical Chemistry and Immunoassay, Microbiology, Urinology and Molecular.
It has set up fully operational laboratories equipped with state-of-the-art equipment and automated systems.
“It is not cheap to run a clinical diagnostic lab as it requires skilled and certified lab technicians and is supported by advanced automated machines and equipment.
“We are determined to offer affordable tests. We came to an arrangement with equipment manufacturers and distributors, Mindray Medical and Chemopharm Sdn Bhd, with an agreed mechanism that cuts down the operational cost.
“They will support us with automated machinery, equipment and software. These are installed in our lab and will be charged on every sample we run.
“So, it is like a subscription-based agreement. This mechanism lowers our operating cost, and thus we can lower the price for the tests we run in SpyGene.
“On top of that, as one of Revongen’s subsidiaries, Revongen also ensures we have adequate support system from the group,” added Abdul Rahman, who has 12 years of experience in the diagnostics laboratory field.
SpyGene began operations in October 2021 with a team of six, consisting of the Lab Manager, lab technicians and administration staff. As CEO, Abdul Rahman oversees the day-to-day operations
“Together with me, we have visiting Consultant Pathologist, Dr Siti Roszilawati Ramli and Lab Manager, Amir Salikan as part of our management team.
An array of laboratory tests
SpyGene offers diagnostic laboratory testing services such as Rt-PCR not only for Covid-19, but for other tests as well such as dengue and infectious diseases.
“We also offer all the standard lab tests done for a routine blood screening. Blood samples are tested for blood count, metabolic, renal, thyroid, diabetes and so on.
“We can also check the level of Covid-19 antibodies present in the body with blood samples.
“If the test results show that the antibody level has gone down to a certain level, then it is best for the individual to get their booster shot.
“We also have a urinalysis, which is a general screening test used to check for early signs of disease,” he said, adding the current test capacity for basic clinical routine tests is 100 a day.
SpyGene’s most recent lab is the molecular diagnostic lab, used to test Covid-19 swab samples.
It comprises testing the molecular level of the Covid-19 swab sample, which means testing whether the gene has already been infected or not with the Covid-19 virus.
SpyGene gets samples via two methods. The first is through its business partners and collaborators, such as private practices, clinics, and DoctorOnCall, who send batches of samples for routine checkups, Covid-19 tests, or both.
The other is by making an online appointment directly with SpyGene Laboratories. Individuals wishing to do a specific or routine test can come in, and the lab will draw the relevant sample.
The lab also provides mobile service for testing for a minimum group of four people.
Covid-19 PCR testing and laboratory
For the Covid-19 PCR test, the company has set up a drive-through service at the parking lot to minimise contact.
“Clients are required to drive in, lower the window and show us the payment slip. We will then perform the swab test and take the samples to the lab via the back door.
“The sample is processed and is then passed to the Covid-19 PCR test lab. Results will be out within 24 hours. We will email them to the client within 24 to 72 hours.
“Our max capacity at the moment for Covid-19 test and result analysis is 1,000 tests a day,” said Abdul Rahman.
The PCR Covid-19 lab adheres strictly to the Ministry of Health’s (MoH) guidelines.
MoH has made it compulsory for the Covid-19 PCR test labs to have three segregated rooms – one is for premix, another for the doffing area and the third room for result analysing machines.
Covid-19 test and result analysing are done using a combination of workforce and machines.
These safety protocols are in place for the safety of the staff and to ensure the safe handling of samples as they are highly contagious.
SpyGene is in the final stages of getting certification from the Institute of Medical Research (IMR).
“I will be sending samples of our analysis methodology and reports to IMR for evaluation. Once certified, we will offer our services and run test analysis for MoH and help clear the backlog of the Covid-19 tests,” said Abdul Rahman.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), molecular diagnostics testing combines laboratory testing with the precision of molecular biology. It has revolutionised how clinical and public health laboratories investigate the human, viral, and microbial genomes, their genes, and the products they encode.
Abdul Rahman explained: “Molecular diagnostic will be vital for healthcare going forward. With molecular diagnostic, we will not just be able to test current health issues but detect markers of potential disease or health risks before they are even triggered.”
“Let me give a good example on this. Lung cancer is the third common cancer in Malaysia and estimated to comprise around 10 per cent of cancer cases.
“And mostly the cases are diagnosed at an advance stage and there is a study that shows the average survival rate is only 18 weeks.
“Imagine if we are able to diagnose and treat these cases earlier. We might be able to saves more lives and perhaps in some cases we may be able to increase their survival rate.”
While he noted Malaysia was far behind in embracing molecular diagnostics, there is a definite potential.
“Before the pandemic, many were not aware of molecular diagnostic testing. Now almost everyone knows about the PCR test for Covid-19, which uses molecular diagnostic precision testing.”
Abdul Rahman believes molecular diagnostics tests for personalised or preventative treatment can be introduced to Malaysia with solid marketing.
Expansion and plans
It is estimated in 2020, the clinical laboratory services market will be around US$2 million and expected to reach US$3.1 million in 2028 with a CAGR of 5.8 per cent.
“There is a big market and growth potential. It is estimated the molecular diagnostic market grows at 40 per cent annually in the Asian region,” shared Abdul Rahman.
The Malaysian clinical laboratories testing (CLT) market, he said is expected to continue growing, driven by a shift toward preventive healthcare, rising demand, population aging and growth of medical tourism.
The market for healthcare services in Malaysia is less developed, with many clinical testing services being unavailable outside of cities.
“We recognise the challenge of healthcare providers to send samples due to geographical reasons. As such, we are aiming to have our lab in each State in Malaysia.
This is our first laboratory, and we still have more space to expand. So, we are currently setting up additional machinery and equipment to increase the clinical and Covid-19 diagnostics capacity.
“We are also in the process of setting up a tuberculosis (TB) lab as it requires a separate lab area.
“After we have settled with the lab and capacity expansion plans here and stabilised the operations, we plan to duplicate and open SpyGene labs nationwide, starting with Terengganu and Kelantan.
Reaching out to the B40 group
SpyGene wants to tackle diagnostic tests for both present and future health risks. It wants to expand and develop molecular diagnostic services to a higher level while ensuring it is affordable.
He added: “I am a strong believer of routine blood test check-ups. With the advancement of technologies, I believe every problem has its solution.
“If we can promote routine blood tests and ensure it is done regularly, perhaps we may be able to save more lives and save the Government’s budget on treatment.
“I would like to work with organisations and people’s representative to reach out to the B40 group.
“Get in touch with our business partners and we will ensure routine blood tests are affordable for you.”
He shared that he is also currently looking for ways to work with the MoH in covering the B40 communities for routine blood tests.
Apart from that, Abdul Rahman is also interested in incorporating halal toyyiban practices into the clinical and molecular diagnostic laboratory business.
“We aim to be the pioneer as a halal certified clinical diagnostic laboratory service provider, and I’m hoping to work with other partners in Southeast Asia and the Middle East for the concept and revolutionised the outlook for clinical laboratory services.
They will work with relevant experts to create a framework for this purpose, which will be the new dimension of Clinical Diagnostic Laboratory services. — The Health